Photography by Brian J. Nelson
Three-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes will highlight an impressive list of road racers slated to take part in Pro Superbike and Pro Sportbike racing at Sonoma Raceway, May 3-4, as part of a three-round series scheduled to take place during the 11-week break between the opening two rounds of the AMA Superbike Championship.
The brainchild of team owner and magazine publisher John Ulrich, the new series will start at Sonoma Raceway and will run in conjunction with the AFM event there. The weekend will include the Pros racing with the amateurs from the AFM, according to a release issued this morning by the Sonoma Raceway.
According to the release, the other two rounds will be held at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, (which, ironically, is owned by International Speedway Corporation – the owners of AMA Superbike promoters Daytona Motorsports Group, a.k.a. AMA Pro Racing - and is not hosting a round of the anorexic AMA Series) and Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. The group says it is currently working on a television package for the series.
That’s two things the five-round 2014 AMA Superbike Championship has failed to deliver: racing on the west coast and a television package.
Others who have entered the race, according to event promoters, include J.D. Beach, Cameron Beaubier, Garrett Gerloff and Jake Zemke as well as Hayes.
"From a racer’s perspective, I'm excited that someone has put in the effort to give us racers the opportunity to spend more time racing our awesome Superbikes,” Hayes said in the release. “A big thank you for that. We've always had good crowds at Sonoma Raceway. It's one of the best tracks we go to in the country and one that's always brought me a lot of success."
Ulrich said he was motivated by the lack of west coast races.
“When I learned that there were no national-level professional road races scheduled west of the Mississippi River for the 2014 season, I realized that I had to try to make something happen,” said Ulrich. “This event is the first step, and is modeled after the successful formula used by British Superbike. I’d like to thank the AFM, the club I started racing with in 1973, for working with me on this effort to rebuild our sport in the United States.”
Professional riders will run practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday, with 18-lap main events slated for Sunday afternoon. AFM groups will be on the track before, between and after the Pro Superbike and Pro Sportbike sessions and races, and the entire event is open to the public.
“This is probably the coolest thing that I have been able to be involved with since I’ve been the president of the club,” said AFM President Berto Wooldridge. “It fundamentally changes the landscape of AFM racing to have a signature event at our home track that brings in AFM amateurs and semi-pro and pro riders from across the country.”
The event also has the support of Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. Racing Division Manager Keith McCarty, who has embraced the idea of creating more road racing events in the western United States.
"First and foremost, we want to race,” said McCarty. “That's the simple reason that we're going to Sonoma Raceway. But, more importantly, we're glad that our fans in the western part of the country will be able to see us. And we're also happy that our fans, and fans of all motorcycle road racing in general, will have additional exposure to our team sponsors. Everyone is excited about our involvement – our riders, our crew members, our sponsors – and we're sure our fans will be as excited as we are. We're looking forward to being a part of it."